Ensuring our voices are heard

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Choose to challenge’ to remind the world about women’s achievements, raise awareness of women’s equality and push for progress.

And there’s certainly a lot to reflect on in 2021 as we emerge from a pandemic that has significantly tested gender equality. Shelley Rowley, chief transformation officer at BHSF shares her thoughts on what lies ahead for gender equality in the workplace.

“Much has been reported about how the burden of the pandemic has fallen on women globally and today has added significance for many working mothers like myself, as we close our homeschooling books and children return to school. Mortality rates may be higher for men than for women, but it is women who are more likely to bear the brunt of the social and economic consequences of the pandemic. Progress could be considerably setback for the gender pay gap with insight from The Fawcett Society showing that women have been more likely to lose jobs, miss out on promotions and cut-back pension contributions.

According to a poll by Fidelity, 23% of women in the UK have seen a drop in their income over the past 12 months, to the tune of around £463 a month, on average. Add that up over the course of a year and you are looking at a fall in these women’s income of £5,556 – almost a quarter of the average annual income of £20,515 for women today.



Flexible, remote working was commonly seen through quite cynical eyes pre-pandemic, but if properly adopted, this could be a key shift for women’s careers, as well as for families overall.

But back to the push for progress. Where and how could the future look brighter for working women? Not all women have been adversely financially affected. Many have become “accidental savers” during the pandemic thanks to fewer outgoings, helping to bolster pension and investment pots. But above all, home working has become normalised as a result of the pandemic, so I think there is a lot that we can nurture from this for future working patterns and environments.

Nonetheless we still need to ensure that this flexibility is shaped within an inclusive culture across an overall organisation to ensure that flexible behaviour is adopted by all. It is about mitigating against the ‘out of sight out of mind’ threat that working women may face through a greater emphasis on remote working patterns. This could be manifested by being overlooked for key projects or missing out on bonus payment contributions.

Business leaders need to have their fingers firmly on the pulse of the entire organisation, ensuring all management and staff are forward-thinking and working together to facilitate a truly inclusive environment so that remote working opportunities can thrive in the long run.

At BHSF our Diversity and Inclusivity Forum is inviting colleagues to celebrate IWD by sharing photos and messages saying what inclusivity means for them.

So I’ll sign-off with my own sentiment: “I feel included at BHSF because my voice is heard.”